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The ESTA, VWP, And International Travel; What Does It All Mean And Why Do We Need It?

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization

The ESTA is an automated system that determines a travelers eligibility to enter the US under the VWP. It assesses the guests security risk and criminal history, and does not guarantee entry even with ESTA eligibility. Customs and Border Patrol make the final determination upon arrival, the ESTA only determines if the traveler is eligible at the most basic level. E-passports and ESTA are the first requirements, and once the traveler arrives they must meet criteria and successfully answer questions, in addition to thorough searches of their person and property if Border Agents or Customs Agents deem it necessary. The ESTA does not replace an issued visa, nor does the ESTA work in place of a visa when a visa is required. However if an International Traveler has a valid visa, they do not have to apply for the ESTA additionally. It can be used for the purposes it was originally issued. VWP travelers must fill out a blue Customs declaration form regardless of ESTA eligibility, but are no longer required to fill out a green card (I-94).

Visa Waiver Program

Travelling Internationally can be overwhelming and sometimes confusing. There are hoops of various heights and sizes to jump through (figuratively speaking of course) and hills to climb. Since tourism is encouraged in most cases because of the positive effects on the economy and multi-cultural civility, participating countries try and make the process as simple as possible without risking national security. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is an agreement between The United States and 38 foreign countries that allow a citizen to visit for no more than 90 days without a visa, as long as the guest returns to their country for legitimate time frames. The US wants proof that the visitor is not currently living or making arrangements to live here without permission. The provision to this agreement is that the participating countries offer the same courtesy to US citizens. There are other provisions in this agreement that were implemented after 2011 that denied entry if the visitor had recently traveled to hostile countries that harbored terrorism, such as Syria, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and others. Additionally, in 2016 people who wished to travel to the US are now required to apply for an e-passport, which is an enhanced security type of passport that has an embedded electronic microchip.

Why Are The Travel Laws So Strict And Annoying?

International Security is taken very seriously by government agencies, and with the rise of terrorism, increased measures that help to prevent these acts must be taken. Although it is sometimes a pain in the rear end, the fact remains that it is the safety of the citizens, as well as the travelers that are being that is being considered. With no restrictions or guidelines in place, many visitors with nefarious intent could freely enter any country and do whatever damage they feel like doing. The subway in France (thankfully thwarted), The attacks of 9/11, The US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Train bombings in Madrid and other acts of terror happened with some security measures in place. Some of these restrictions were implemented because of these heinous acts. So even though it might be time consuming and inconvenient, the safety of citizens in all countries are worth the small inconvenience, don’t you think?